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A coalition of influential labor groups want to create a new board to set enforceable health care cost benchmarks in the state, according to a memo shared with POLITICO.

The proposal is from the New Jersey Coalition for Affordable Hospitals, which includes influential labor unions including the New Jersey Education Association, the Communications Workers of America, the Policemen’s Benevolent Association and 32BJ SEIU.

“The legislation would ... ensure that an independent cost containment Board has the ability to set healthcare cost growth targets, examine information about the healthcare market’s cost drivers, and take enforcement action if targets are not met,” according to a synopsis that has been shared with lawmakers.

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A recent poll shows healthcare costs are voters’ top financial concern. Employer and union health plans like the one I oversee at the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association are on the front lines of this healthcare cost crisis. Collectively, these plans provide coverage for 160 million Americans. Over the last two years, our health plan costs increased by 31% to an average of $43,000 per policyholder. Today, our 30,000 active-duty police officers must pay upwards of $15,000 annually for coverage. Taxpayers pay the rest. Next year, hospital surgery costs are expected to drive our plan costs up another 15%, bringing annual premiums to nearly $50,000." This is the beginning of an Op-Ed written by Kevin Lyons in Fortune magazine as a follow-up to his well-received testimony before the US Congress. To read the entire piece, click here https://fortune.com/2024/03/19/75-unions-employers-endorse-senate-health-care-price-transparency-bill-congress/

On the last day of the legislative session the Senate and Assembly today approved PBA initiated legislation to remove the threat of prosecution for civil rights violations from officers who encounter minors with cannabis and alcohol.

The bill, A5610, restores the requirement that in order for an officer to be prosecuted for a deprivation of civil rights violation that there must be a finding that the officer acted to target a person who is in a protected class. Current law states that there does not need to be a finding of intent for a civil rights prosecution to occur if an officer encounters a suspected minor with alcohol or cannabis and detains the person for longer than needed to identify them, among other restrictions on officer actions with minors. 

The State PBA has been lobbying for the last few years to fix this egregious problem that has tied officers hands across the State. The lack of enforcement power due to the threat of officer prosecution has resulted in minors throughout New Jersey openly violating the underage consumption law while engaging in dangerous and sometimes violent activities. The passage of the bill has been a major priority for the NJ State PBA all session.

We would like to thank Assembly Majority Leader Greenwald and Senator Beach for their support and leadership in expediting the passage of this bill. They have been true allies in our effort to protect our members and ensure that kids are not harmed by the unlawful use of alcohol and cannabis. We are grateful the Governor agreed with our concerns and will sign the bill into law.

Governor Murphy today signed into law legislation extending the 20 and Out benefit for 3 more years. As previously reported the bill was conditionally vetoed by the Governor to give the pension board more time to study the financial impact of the benefit. However, the Governors veto language confirms that at the PFRS Board of Trustees has the power to make the benefit permanent in the future.

Members considering retirement should consult with PFRS staff and MBOS for the date for reinstatement of the benefit option online.

The bill was a major priority for the State PBA. Special thanks to Senator Gopal and Assemblyman DeAngerlo for their sponsorship and forceful advocacy to get the bill done before the summer recess.

Today the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a 5-2 decision denying the NJ State PBA’s request to stay the order of the Appellate Division that upheld Governor Murphy’s vaccination mandate that applies to all State and County Correctional Police Officers. Despite two justices voting in favor of granting our request for a stay, we recognize that the Court has spoken.

The State PBA along with our 11,000 members that are affected by this mandate are disappointed that we were unsuccessful in this challenge. We are currently reviewing this decision with legal counsel to ensure that our members have a firm understanding of the decision and can undertake any individual appellate rights that they may have available to them.

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